Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com

Hands down, one of my favorite business trips of the year for Minnesota Turkey is my annual trek to Washington DC in July.

My boss and I take a group of our leaders –  mostly farmers and sometimes a student or two  – to our nation’s capitol to participate in the National Turkey Federation Summer Leadership Conference and visit all of Minnesota’s Congressional offices.

Say what you will about the state of politics in this country, but this trip to DC never fails to energize and inspire me. 

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
Here I am in front of the Capitol building with Eliza Theis, a University of Minnesota vet student (left), and Erica Sawatzke, a turkey farmer from Minnesota (center).

Spending time with my “turkey peeps” reminds me that there are so many dedicated, passionate, and intelligent people working for the turkey industry. From the farmers and turkey companies (like Minnesota’s Jennie-O Turkey Store, Turkey Valley Farms, and Northern Pride Cooperative) to those who service the industry in areas like breeding/genetics, bird health, nutrition, equipment, and more … there is so much to be learned with all of us working toward common issues and goals.

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
We got to ride the special underground subway between the House and Senate sides of Capitol Hill – a feat that can only happen if you get security clearance and have a Congressional staffer escort you. With me are turkey farmers John Zimmerman and Kim Halvorson – both from Minnesota.

My favorite part of the week is the trip to Capitol Hill when we visit with our Congressional offices. I book all the appointments ahead of the trip and create the schedule for our group. Our group has farms and business interests in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota so we typically have about 15 appointments to divvy up throughout the day. It keeps us all moving quickly and this is when we cover our issues of importance – this year, for instance we talked about the importance of trade with other countries like China and Mexico; the 2018 Farm Bill and our request to include a disease prevention program for all animal proteins; and the labor shortage both farms and turkey companies are experiencing in our rural areas.

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
Our meeting with Minnesota Senator Al Franken ended with a little fun during the group photo!

I sometimes get asked if visiting DC and talking with our Senators and Congressmen and women is a waste of time. Far from it. This is a chance to tell our story and to talk about how national regulatory policy and bills like the Farm Bill impact our farms each and every day. If we don’t share these stories, someone else will tell them for us – and I can guarantee it won’t be in a positive manner, or probably even remotely accurate.

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
Here we are in a special media room above the Senate chambers with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar!

We go to DC to build relationships with our Congressional leaders, their staffers, and those in various regulatory agencies. Do our requests get fast-tracked? For the most part, of course not. But we do make an impact and work does get done – certainly not immediately and maybe not even in a year or longer, but we do make progress.

I feel so fortunate to be able to see Washington DC “in action” like this. It’s a side of our country that most people will never experience – and if you ever get the chance to visit DC and your Congressional offices, I highly recommend that you do so. 

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
Here’s my boss as we “snuck” into an elevator marked for members of Congress only. (Don’t worry it was after hours!)

As I reflect on this year’s trip on the flight home, here’s what I know. The heart of the turkey industry remains its family farmers. The turkey companies for which they raise flocks may seem large to some folks but without the farmers in their barns every single day, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy turkey products year-round like we do. Don’t be misled by comments you see online that turkey production is “big impersonal ag” or “industrial farming” where no one cares for anything more than the bottom line. There is a heart – and I see it every day.

Turkey is Family via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.com
What do you do after a full day of appointments on Capitol Hill? You relax with a glorious pint of Harp on the patio of one of my favorite bars in DC – The Dubliner!

To share the phrase that drives my friend and colleague, Carl Wittenburg, whose North Dakota and Minnesota turkey farming roots run deep, and who is this year’s chairman of the National Turkey Federation …. #TurkeyIsFamily!

xoxo – Lara


2 comments on “Turkey is Family”

  1. Glad to see your trip to DC went well! I’ve been here 2.5 years and have visited many times before, but those sights and special visits to the Capitol never get old. And you are absolutely correct, taking the time to visit the Hill is very important. I have many staffer friends who say visits from the ag industry are some of the visits that stand out the most. Especially in districts were the Congressman isn’t as well versed in agriculture.

    • I’ve been so busy I just saw this! Thanks for reading – I will never tire of visiting DC … love that area! 🙂 – Lara

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